The changing of the year is often a time when folks think of making their New Years Resolutions (or other positive changes in their lives). Most often those changes usually involve fitness or money. Unfortunately, most people are not great at keeping up with their resolutions throughout the year.
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So, if you want to give yourself the best chance of long-term success, I highly recommend following the SMART strategy:
Be SPECIFIC: Instead of saying, “I will exercise more,” or “I will save more money,” be specific in the details. Set a goal that is achievable but requires a commitment. A fitness example could be establishing a plan to exercise three times each week for a minimum of 45 minutes; for a better savings plan, pick a targeted dollar amount and set a percentage out of each paycheck to save.
Be sure it is MEASURABLE: In the examples above, a specific weekly exercise regiment or saving a particular dollar amount from each paycheck is easy to measure. However, you will significantly increase your chances of success if you monitor and record your results periodically. For example, you might set up a weekly ‘success’ report on your smartphone indicating that you got all three workouts in, along with a photo to track your progress. When it comes to saving, setting a target savings amount is a great way to achieve a monthly or quarterly savings goal for building wealth. If you miss a workout or savings opportunity, do not beat yourself up. Just dust yourself off and get back on track.
It has to be ACHIEVABLE: Creating unrealistic goals can derail your best plans. If you said, “I will exercise 7 days a week for a minimum of an hour,” then you are very likely setting yourself up to fail. In our example, starting with three days will allow you to build a strong habit. As you settle in, you might ‘adjust’ your goal to 4 days…and so on. The goal is to create a situation where you have successes early in the process. The same goes for saving money. Don’t try to hit your financial savings goal in a few paychecks. Building a solid, consistent savings strategy is key to positive long-term results. Remember, the earlier the success, the more likely you will stay on top of the routine.
Make it RELEVANT: The goal should have a strong ‘WHY’ for you. For example, if you exercised 3 times per week or saved a specific dollar amount from every paycheck for a whole year what would that mean for you? What positive results would you likely see? Draw a strong picture of what the outcome would look like in your mind. There is a popular saying: “If you have a strong enough ‘why,’ the ‘how’ will take care of itself.” The important thing to remember is to draw a strong picture of what success looks like for you.
It needs to be TIME-BOUND: Each goal needs both a beginning and an end date. If you are new to goal setting, you might start with a shorter time frame, such as 30 days or 3 months. Once accomplished, celebrate this success and set a new, slightly more ambitious goal using that positive experience to build on the next.
No matter what your resolutions or goals look like, it is essential to write down your goals and share them with someone who will support you and hold you accountable. Be sure to celebrate little successes along the way and keep your ‘Why’ foremost in your mind. Best of luck in the New Year!
Stewart H. Welch, III, CFP®, A.E.P., is the founder of THE WELCH GROUP, L.L.C., which specializes in providing fee-only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. He is the author or co-author of six books, including 50 Rules of Success; J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning- 6th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); THINK Like a Self-Made Millionaire; and 100 Tips for Creating a Champagne Retirement on a Shoestring Budget. For more information, visit The Welch Group. Consult your financial advisor before acting on comments in this article.
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